More Queens restaurants lose liquor licenses for violating COVID-19 regulations

REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/File Photo

Nine New York City establishments are among 21 statewide that have had their liquor licenses suspended for not complying with COVID-19 regulations. Four of the nine restaurants with suspended licenses were from Queens.

The latest round of suspensions brings the total up to 238. In total, 1,362 charges have been filed against bars and restaurants for violating coronavirus-related rules. The emergency suspensions were ordered by State Liquor Authority (SLA) Chairman Vincent Bradley, Commissioner Lily Fan and Commissioner Greeley Ford at special meetings with the full SLA board between Sept. 30 and Oct. 21.

“Rules are only as good as enforcement, and as we have ramped up checks on bars and restaurants, compliance has increased, creating a safer environment for everyone. A small number of business owners still don’t think the rules apply to them — even in focus zones where the state has tracked increased spread — and these suspensions should serve as a reminder that we will take action against those who callously put New Yorkers in harm’s way,” Governor Cuomo said. “As we continue to fight clusters across the state, bar and restaurant owners should know that the state’s task force will keep enforcing the law, and if they do not follow the rules they will lose their right to serve alcohol.”

The restaurants are as follows:

  • Zebra Lounge NY II, 136-11 38th Ave., Queens —  On Sept. 27, the New York City Sheriff’s Office observed over 100 patrons inside the premises drinking, smoking and singing karaoke, in flagrant violation of the governor’s executive orders in place since March 16, 2020, which restricted indoor dining in New York City before Sept. 30 and prohibited activities like karaoke.
  • Elite Palace at 69-02 Garfield Ave., Queens — On Sept. 25, the New York City Sheriff’s Office responded to the location following complaints of social distancing violations to find a wedding in progress with nearly 300 patrons inside — six times the number of attendees currently allowed at events — along with a band playing and numerous patrons observed standing, mingling and drinking, most without facial coverings.
  • Da Mikelle Palace, 102 39-55A Queens Blvd., Queens — On Oct. 18, New York City Sheriff’s Office deputies observed several individuals entering the business, which was operating in a “Red Zone” area identified by Governor Cuomo’s Cluster Action Initiative and was limited to takeout and delivery only. Despite operating with the establishment’s front lights off to give the appearance the business was closed, deputies heard music playing inside and entered the premises, observing two rooms with about 25 patrons in each — eating, drinking and dancing without facial coverings or adherence to social distancing protocols. Deputies then entered an annexed space inside the building called the “Troyka Restaurant” and discovered approximately 45 additional patrons eating, drinking and dancing to a live band — with neither patrons, employees nor band members wearing facial coverings. According to patrons, the gathering was a wedding reception, which would not have been allowed at this size under statewide COVID-19 regulations, which limit non-essential gatherings to 50 attendees. In “Red Zones,” non-essential gatherings are not allowed at all, regardless of size.
  • Tropical Fantasy Bar & Lounge, 92-06 173rd St., Queens — On Oct. 9, NYPD officers observed the premises using a tent set up on the sidewalk in front of the premises, which was blocking the pedestrian right of way in violation of New York City’s Open Restaurants program. According to the police, numerous patrons were observed standing, drinking and congregating under the tent. Despite additional warnings, including a follow-up visit by the NYPD on Oct. 15 and an inspection by SLA investigators on Oct. 17, the premises continued to utilize the illegal tent. The location is a repeat offender, with pending charges for multiple EO violations already issued by the SLA.
  • Fat Buddha, 212 Ave. A, Manhattan — On Oct. 9, investigators with the state’s multi-agency task force and officers with the NYPD observed over 20 patrons standing, congregating and drinking directly in front of the business without facial coverings well past the 11 p.m. NYC curfew for outside dining. Investigators noted the kitchen was closed and there was no evidence of food being served, in addition to numerous patrons entering and exiting the premises with open containers. NYPD officers dispersed the crowd and issued a summons for executive order violations.
  • Rochelle’s, 19 Stanton St., Manhattan — On Oct. 9, investigators with the state’s multi-agency task force observed seven patrons standing and mingling inside without facial coverings. A security guard at the door and the premises’ manager were also observed without facial coverings. The business was operating well past the midnight cutoff for indoor service in New York City, with investigators finding no evidence of substantial food being served — in direct violation of guidelines created to prevent congregation and mingling that have led to COVID-19 spikes in other states.
  • Wise Bar & Grill, 35 Neptune Ave., Brooklyn, — On Oct. 9, investigators with the state’s multi-agency task force conducted an inspection of the premises, which was operating in an “Orange Zone” area, where indoor dining was prohibited as part of Governor Cuomo’s science-based Cluster Action Initiative. After initially observing individuals without facial coverings outside the bar waiting for tables inside, investigators entered, documenting 24 patrons inside eating and drinking, in flagrant violation of the law. In addition, an employee working in the kitchen was observed without a facial covering.
  • 39 Fantastic Bar, 3914 Eighth Ave., Brooklyn —  On Oct. 10, NYPD officers found the bar operating for indoor service in an “Orange Zone,” where indoor dining was prohibited. In an effort to avoid detection, the establishment had covered their windows to create the appearance they were closed, while slipping patrons inside. Despite a security guard attempting to block entry, officers discovered approximately 100 patrons in the unlicensed basement area, which has a maximum occupancy of only 25. Officers discovered 10 karaoke rooms filled with patrons singing, drinking and using controlled substances in plain view, with officers arresting seven individuals for possession of ketamine and issuing a summons to the manager for operating a disorderly premise.
  • Alfie’s Place, 3037 East 177th St., the Bronx — On Oct. 17, NYPD officers on patrol entered the premises, observing a bartender without a facial covering and several patrons standing at the bar, ignoring social distancing and without facial coverings. In addition, two patrons were observed standing and playing illegal video gaming devices. Police report no food was being served, and that the kitchen area had been physically separated from the premises and rented to a neighboring business without authorization from the SLA. During a followup investigation, the SLA determined the establishment’s liquor license had been illegally sold to a third party without approval, charging the licensee with “availing” the license by allowing persons who are not approved by the SLA to own or operate the premises.

In addition to taking action through the State’s Multi-Agency Task Force against establishments downstate where local enforcement has been lax, the SLA has continued enforcement efforts statewide with a specific focus on areas around colleges and counties with increases in COVID-19 cases.

“The increase in compliance we’ve seen is encouraging but not surprising, given the fact the overwhelming majority of bar and restaurant owners are hardworking, conscientious operators that put the health of their employees, patrons and communities first,” State Liquor Authority Chair Vincent Bradley said. “However, as the risks associated with noncompliance by just a few bad actors remains high, the task force will continue our work to ensure a handful of reckless business owners do not halt or reverse our state’s progress.”

Businesses found in violation of these regulations face fines up to $10,000 per violation, while egregious violations can result in the immediate suspension of a bar or restaurant’s liquor license. Suspension orders are served immediately and remain in effect indefinitely, and licensees subject to an emergency suspension are entitled to an expedited hearing before an SLA Administrative Law Judge.

This story originally appeared on amny.com

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